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Season's best: Davidson could save Lightning

Wait a minute. Let me check my other pocket. Hold on. There. All told, bills and change, I've got $8.23.

If Bill Davidson needs it, it's his.

This is what we should do. We should empty our coin jars. We should check beneath the couch cushions. We should sell any soft drink bottles we have. And we should pitch in to help Bill Davidson, our kind of billionaire, purchase the Lightning.

This is our guy. This is the owner we want. If this was a vote, it would be a landslide.

The more you hear about Davidson, the more you notice that no one is saying anything bad about the guy. And the harder it becomes not to get excited about Davidson owning this hockey team.

It is only now we begin to understand how Princess Leia felt as she spoke the words "Help me Obi-Wan . . . you're my only hope." This is how we are beginning to feel about Davidson. We have looked at his resume, and we have checked his references, and what the heck, we are ready to give the guy the job.

Ask around about Davidson, and this is what you hear. He is rich. He is competitive. He is passionate. Oh, yeah, and he shows up at games. Imagine that.

This is what Tampa Bay wants for Father's Day. Also for Mother's Day. It wants new ownership.

You want to know about Davidson? Ask Dick Vitale, who once was hired by Davidson. Also fired.

"He's a super guy, a super owner," Vitale said Tuesday. "I couldn't tell you about a classier guy. He puts his heart and his soul and his passion into his teams. You can feel his caring. He'd be a great owner.

"He fired me only because I deserved to be fired. He's told me since then it was the best thing anyone ever did for me, and I agree."

You want to know about Davidson? Look at the front row near the Detroit Pistons bench. That's where you find him, almost every game, one of the few owners who knows the difference between supporting his team and interfering. Davidson has owned the Pistons for a quarter of a century now. Have you ever heard of him doing anything dumb?

You want to know about Davidson? He's a guy who enjoyed a Pink Floyd concert because it was at his Palace at Auburn Hills. He is a low-key man no one, at first sight, would suspect of being rich. He's a guy who loves Seinfeld and shrimp and his alma mater, the University of Michigan.

Oh, yes, and one other thing.

He wants to own your hockey team.

Around here that's bigger news than the possible draft of Vincent Lecavalier. It certainly would sell a lot more season tickets. Lightning fans have had it with the current owner, and every move that is made _ the removal of Steve Oto and his half-page of hockey knowledge as president, for instance _ brings hope that it has been made to ease the sale.

Never has the idea seemed better. No one ever knew if the other interested groups had enough money, expertise or commitment. Davidson evidently has it all.

When Davidson decided to build the Palace at Auburn Hills, the common way to refer to it in Detroit was "Davidson's Folly." No one left downtown for the suburbs. No one built an arena with his own money. No one cared about the Pistons, either. A couple championships later, people stopped laughing.

"You know what it might be that appeals to him (with the Lightning)?" Pistons president Tom Wilson said. "Doing it all over again. He takes over things that people have given up for dead. He has absolute confidence in his sense of vision."

The idea has to appeal to fans, too. The idea of an owner who cares, who would come in with a big broom and start to build something fun sounds very much like the last chance to get excited again.

Who knows if it will happen? Who knows what Davidson will offer or what Kokusai Green will take? We only know two things. First, Davidson would like for it to be done by the end of next week. Second, who in heck would ever buy another season ticket from the current owner?

Oh, yes. And one more thing.

If Davidson is buying, Vitale wants a job.

"Give me another chance, Billy D," Vitale shouted into the phone. "I didn't do for you in basketball, but maybe I will in hockey."

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